Interior Image

Nicole Sealey



Born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey is the author of Ordinary Beast, forthcoming from Ecco in fall 2017, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from the American Poetry Review, A Daniel Varoujan Award and the Poetry International Prize, as well as fellowships from CantoMundo, Cave Canem, MacDowell Colony and the Poetry Project. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation.


Medical History


I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had sex with a man


who’s had sex with men. I can’t sleep.


My mother has, my mother’s mother had,


asthma. My father had a stroke. My father’s


mother has high blood pressure.


Both grandfathers died from diabetes.


I drink. I don’t smoke. Xanax for flying.


Propranolol for anxiety. My eyes are bad.


I’m spooked by wind. Cousin Lilly died


from an aneurysm. Aunt Hilda, a heart attack.


Uncle Ken, wise as he was, was hit


by a car as if to disprove whatever theory


toward which I write. And, I understand,


the stars in the sky are already dead.



A Violence


You hear the high-pitched yowls of strays


fighting for scraps tossed from a kitchen window.


They sound like children you might have had.


Had you wanted children. Had you a maternal bone,


you would wrench it from your belly and fling it


from your fire escape. As if it were the stubborn


shard now lodged in your wrist. No, you would hide it.


Yes, you would hide it inside a barren nesting doll


you’ve had since you were a child. Its smile


reminds you of your father, who does not smile.


Nor does he believe you are his. “You look just like


your mother,” he says, “who looks just like a fire


of suspicious origin.” A body, I’ve read, can sustain


its own sick burning, its own hell, for hours.


It’s the mind. It’s the mind that cannot.






We wake as if surprised the other is still there,

each petting the sheet to be sure.


How have we managed our way

to this bed—beholden to heat like dawn


indebted to light. Though we’re not so self

-important as to think everything


has led to this, everything has led to this.

There’s a name for the animal


love makes of us—named, I think,

like rain, for the sound it makes.


You are the animal after whom other animals

are named. Until there’s none left to laugh,


days will start with the same startle

and end with caterpillars gorged on milkweed.


O, how we entertain the angels

with our brief animation. O,


how I’ll miss you when we’re dead.